The Law Convicting the Rebellious
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners . . . But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (1Ti_1:8-9 and Gal_5:18)
Although the law has some God-given inabilities, it is nevertheless good. "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Rom_7:12). It does have certain abilities, "if one uses it lawfully." One unlawful application of the law would be using it to obtain justification, a declaration of being righteous in God's sight. If anyone ever infers that attempted obedience to the law of God could potentially secure an overall verdict of "not guilty," that would be biblically forbidden.
Another unlawful application of God's law would be using it to obtain sanctification, progressive spiritual growth in the Lord. If a person imagines that they could grow in godliness by their best attempts at living up to the law, that too would be prohibited by God's word.
The law is "for the lawless and insubordinate." The law of God is for those who are rebellious at heart against the will and the ways of God. This truth, in its basic interpretation, is directed toward unbelievers, "for the ungodly and for sinners." Herein we see that the law of God is able to convict unbelieving rebels of their defiance against a holy God.
However, by implication, there is an insight for believers here as well. As far as God is concerned, we are "not under law but under grace" (Rom_6:14). Yet, only those who walk according to the Spirit fully enjoy the daily blessings of that reality. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." When followers of the Lord Jesus walk according to the flesh, they practically place themselves under a performance code. They put themselves under the law for practical day by day living.
The message of the law, which is for the rebellious, also has the capacity to expose this unacceptable condition within the life of a self-sufficient believer.
Dear God of all Grace, I confess that I formerly lived in lawless rebellion against You. Lord, Your Holy Spirit convicted me of my self-righteous defiance against Your holy law. By Your grace You justified me, as I cried out in faith toward Your Son. Lord, now I earnestly ask You to convict me of those times when I attempt to live by the self-righteous resources of my own flesh. Lord, I need to be sanctified daily by Your grace, even as You previously justified me by Your grace. I praise You that such a work is abundantly available through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
(by Bob Hoekstra)